Alternatives to Volontourism

        ********NB This article talks about UK and European opportunities only*********

In my last entry, I spoke about the dangers of volunteering in a developing country and suggested that young people leaving school may wish to reconsider becoming a ‘volontourist’.   Many people, however, do feel that they want to volunteer or at least travel.  In this list, are options that could be considered by people who still want to volunteer.

Local Volunteering:

There are many opportunities to volunteer within your own area, many of which will teach you valuable skills and enable you to make a positive impact, often with no cost to the volunteer.  If you are specifically interested in international development, you could volunteer with a local INGO.

Please look at NCVO’s website to find out more, and also to contact your local volunteering centre.

European Voluntary Service:

This is an EU-funded scheme that places 18-30 year olds anywhere in Europe on a social project up for a year.  The projects range from volunteering in care homes to working in cultural centres promoting European mobility.  Every project is carefully selected and it is illegal for projects to have volunteers that replace staff.  The emphasis is on developing the volunteer’s skill base, so volunteers have the opportunity to learn a new language, and develop skills important to the social sector.  Volunteer expenses are fully covered by the EU.


This is specifically for skilled professionals who wish to change career, or take a break.  VSO advertising for specific roles and each role has certain requirements but generally volunteers must be over 25 with at least 3 years professional experience, and often a masters in a related field.  All expenses covered.

Project Trust:

While I hesitate to recommend any ‘volontourism’ organisations, if you must go, go with Project Trust.  They are one of the only ‘gap yah’ organisations that put their volunteers through a selection process which involves a 5 day stay on a Scottish Island.   They place you on their programmes according to your suitability (you don’t get to choose) and all projects are 12 months long.


Finally, if your main priorities are seeing the world and having unique experiences – maybe you should consider travelling rather than a fixed volunteering programme.   If you do want to go deeper than just a whirlwind tour, why not look at Workaway.  This gives you the opportunity to work just 5 hours a day in exchange for lodging and food, and it’s a unique and wonderful way of travelling. You could end up helping out in a hostel, teaching English or even working on an environmentally-friendly social project.

As you can see, there are hundreds of incredible ways to travel the world, experience new places without signing up to be a volontourist.


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